When Kathryn Bass went to work at Matthews Cards & Gifts on a normal Saturday morning, she didn’t know her life would change before the end of her shift.
In an elaborate surprise, her high school sweetheart Lance Cpl. Austin Turbyfil was on one knee inside the Clinton business, a sizable diamond ring in hand.
Having been deployed overseas in the Marine Corps since the end of last year, he waas not expected by Bass to be back home for several more weeks. But there he was.
“I was not expecting it whatsoever,” said Bass. “I thought I had two or three weeks left before I’d see him again, because that’s how he made it seem. So when I first saw him I was completely shocked. And I thought the surprise was that he was home early, but then there was a bigger surprise. I didn’t know he was going to ask me right there in front of all my co-workers and everything, but it was the best day of my life so far.”
Now in Virginia visiting their families, more than a week removed from the engagement, Bass said she’s still buzzing.
“I’m still in shock,” she said.
“She’s still on cloud nine,” Turbyfill added. “She still looks down at her hand like ‘is this real?’
Together off and on for the past six years, Bass, 23, and Turbyfill, 22, met at Galax High School in Virginia in 2009 when Bass was a senior and Turbyfill was a junior. Bass’ brother Richard and Turbyfill were best friends and started a band. Bass knew about her brother’s friend but hadn’t talked with him. Then he came over to the house one day.
“The moment I saw him smile, it just got me,” she said. “And we’ve been together ever since.”
There were a couple bumps along the way, but even when they weren’t together, they remained close friends. Turbyfill joined the Marines in May 2013 and Bass ultimately moved down to North Carolina in July 2013 — she was born and raised in Newton Grove — where the two reconnected. That was two years ago.
“It was just amazing,” she said. “It was actually perfect because that’s how me and Austin got back together. When he was finishing boot camp (at Camp Lejeune), I was moving to Newton Grove. Jacksonville is only about an hour and a half away from Newton Grove, so I went to see him and we hung out and started talking again and it all kind of happened.”
“I really thank the Marines, because if he wouldn’t have been that close, we probably wouldn’t have gotten back together,” she attested. “It just worked out the way it was supposed to.”
Turbyfill was at Camp Lejeune until February 2014, after which he was stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., before being deployed for seven months to the Middle East, serving stints in Iraq and Kuwait.
“When I was over in the Middle East, it was a mind-changer. Not that I hadn’t wanted to (get married) anyways, but certain chain of events happens and it opens your eyes,” Turbyfill said. “Life is too short to just wait around.”
Meanwhile, Bass, who had lived in Mt. Airy for a time, was looking to further her education and ultimately moved in with her uncle in the Newton Grove house where her grandparents Maddrey and Lottie Bass had lived. She enrolled in cosmetology at Sampson Community College, where her uncle is a teacher.
When Bass and Turbyfill reconnected and he ultimately was deployed, Bass put college on hold and began working at Matthews in October 2014. She said she loves it there, saying it is the best job she’s ever had.
The good memories at Matthews were cemented with Austin’s proposal.
Not only did Turbyfill know he was going to pop the question, he had the ring for a year before it was on Kathryn’s finger. It was just a matter of the right moment presenting itself.
“I’d been sitting on the ring for, give or take, a year,” he said. “I was just waiting for the right time and the right place.”
Bass was never one to expect the surprise. Her boyfriend knew that.
“She has always been one who would never expected to be surprised like this, especially from a guy like me. I’m not big on all the romantic surprises and stuff like that, so I knew there would be several surprises. She never expected it to happen and I never expected it to happen, but it kind of fell into place the way it worked out.”
Turbyfill told his girlfriend he had training events and various other responsibilities at Camp Pendleton, and that it could be a month before he knew when he would get leave to come home. Meanwhile, he had already had a plan ticket in hand and plans with his parents Mark and Amy Turbyfill to pick him up at the airport and drive him down to Clinton that Saturday morning.
“My dad drove me straight over to her workplace and I did it right then,” he beamed.
Turbyfill called Kathryn’s parents, Ray and Debby Bass, to let them know beforehand and Debby called the store to clear Kathryn’s schedule so she could go home to Virginia after that day. Her mom, with the help of Matthews employees, also helped lure Kathryn to the back of the store so she wouldn’t see Austin coming in. When they called her to the front of the store, he was there waiting.
“It actually worked out better than I ever imagined it,” he said.
Bass wants an outdoor April wedding and Turbyfill’s commitment to the Marines extends until May 2017. They said the wedding could come next April but likely in April 2017, at which point he will know whether he is re-enlisting or not. For now, he will serve the final two years of his four-year commitment to the Marines at Camp Pendleton.
California could very well be their home initially, Bass noted, but not forever. They will be tying the knot in Virginia, where they ultimately want to relocate.
“We definitely want to move back to Virginia to be closer to our family,” Bass said.